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Is U of T Failing to Address Antisemitism?

Simcoe Hall, the seat of Governance at the University of Toronto (Milman & Associates)

Sept. 20, 2021

TORONTO – The University of Toronto has failed for seven months to act on a panel decision that a student union is engaging in anti-Israel discrimination, raising serious questions about the university’s stated commitment to fight antisemitism.

In a ruling released on Feb. 4, the Complaint and Resolution Council for Student Societies (CRCSS), a body created by the University but composed mostly of students, found that the Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) had engaged in discrimination based on nationality, in violation of its own Anti-Discrimination Policy, by promoting boycotts and sanctions of Israel (BDS). The CRCSS then issued five recommendations to the UTGSU, including revising its bylaws to prevent boycotts based on nationality, making the BDS Caucus student fee refundable, and revising its Anti-Discrimination Policy to align with the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The ruling also ordered the UTGSU to provide a summary of its implementation plans by March 1, and to implement the recommendations within a year. Instead, the UTGSU made clear that it has no intention of ending its discriminatory behaviour. U of T administrators responded by doing nothing for months, before telling the complainant, Chaim Katz, that the matter had been returned to the CRCSS to decide on next steps. No timeline has been provided as to when the matter will finally be resolved.

Section 2 of U of T’s Policy for Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees states that “The University shall continue to collect fees on behalf of student societies only so long as the individual societies operate in an open, accessible and democratic fashion.” The CRCSS repeatedly found that the UTGSU was not operating in accordance with this requirement. In B’nai Brith Canada’s view, the Provost is therefore obligated to withhold the fees collected on behalf of the UTGSU, effective immediately.

“In our opinion, U of T is intentionally allowing antisemitism and discrimination to thrive on campus,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “There is no excuse for its ongoing failure to enforce the CRCSS decision of Feb. 4, 2021, other than a desire to perpetuate the cycle of discrimination.

“The message is loud and clear: Despite its promises, the U of T administration does not care about its Jewish or Israeli students, faculty or staff members.”

In December of 2020, U of T announced with much fanfare the creation of an Antisemitism Working Group. Almost a year later, the working group has nothing to show for its efforts, aside from a three-paragraph “Interim Report” of March 2021 that makes no recommendations whatsoever to the University.

Antisemitism has become an increasingly serious problem in recent years, aside from the UTGSU’s ongoing funding of the antisemitic BDS Movement. In 2018, a professor refused to meet with a Jewish student and falsely alleged that he was an Israeli government agent, which U of T deemed not to be a violation of its policies. In June of 2021, the President of the University of Toronto Faculty Association claimed that an “entitled powerful Zionist minority” was engaged in “psychological warfare” against association leadership over its stance on the Valentina Azarova hiring controversy.

To demand action against antisemitism on campus, you can email President Meric Gertler at [email protected] and Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr at [email protected].